Inside the Bizarre Brain of Albert Alchemy
In such days of hefty unemployment, it's hard even for graduates to find work in their first choice of profession. I caught up with one such graduate who has taken the unusual step of turning to the world of children's entertainment for a living. Alan Davis, alias Albert Alchemy, tickles children's fancies at shopping malls and private functions throughout the land.
Is his occupation filled with endless heartwarming moments as he sends toddlers away gleefully clutching a handful of balloons? I met up with him and asked him to explain some of the harsh realities that exist in the world of children's entertainment. First of all Alan excitedly spoke about his magic and juggling.
"I like to check out my ideas with other people first," he beams, "One of my latest ideas is to ask people, "Shall we chop up a kid?" and they go, "Yeah!" People like bizarre ideas. Once I get people's opinions then I bring the ideas into the show."
Having established that Alan is a raging psychopath, I let him go on to tell me about a plate juggling routine that he currently incorporates into his performance.
"I run up a stack of tables whilst I have five plates spinning on five poles. Then I pretend I've forgotten the plates that I'm supposed to be juggling on the tables. I scream, "Oh my God!" and run back down the tables to get the plates."
This revelation has Alan bouncing violently around on his stool, gesticulating wildly, as he recaptures the magic of his show.
Another of Alan's wonderful ideas includes making magic waving hats out of balloons.
"It's dead easy," he explains, "You measure the kid's head. One twist and it's done. The idea is that anyone who sees someone in a waving hat must wave at them and anyone in a waving hat who sees someone waving at them must wave back. I had one kid who did not respond at all," says Alan, seemingly surprised by this type of behavior. "His mother said, 'Never mind, nice idea,' and I though, 'Well no, get lost, it's not my fault, it's your kid!"
Of course, a child who does not enjoy waving at other kids in magic waving hats is obviously seriously deranged. Not like Alan who, no doubt, also likes to incorporate a little machete wielding and knife juggling into his act.
At this point we terminate the interview for a break and Alan gives me a hint of what's to come.
"That's the glamorous side of it," he says, "All people see is the glamor."
I disappear to the bar and when I return I find Alan playing with my voice recorder.
"I've just been talking to it," he confesses happily. I rewind the tape to find out exactly what sort of conversation our Albert Alchemy has when left alone with a piece of recording equipment.
"Have you hurt yourself? You've got a plaster on you. Have you fallen over and hurt yourself or something, or had an electric shock? Well, I'm going to turn you off actually."
My worst fears are confirmed. I'm alone with a man obsessed with pain and torture. I nervously continue the interview.
True to his charmingly schizophrenic qualities, Alan falls into a state of depression as he tells me about what he considers to be the 'unglamorous' side of his profession.
"It can be very lonely," he moans, "If I have to go to Glasgow for a gig I may have to stop overnight in a town where I have no friends. I have a lot of expenses too. I have to pay for petrol, advertising, equipment, insurance and so on, and I've only had three shows this month which is not enough to pay the rent. Also, there is a lot of humping around. If I have to go to another town I have to drive there, hump my equipment around and drive back again."
I feel sorry for this poor creature (half man, half children's entertainer) 'humping his equipment' all over the country.
Despite his whingeing, Alan seems to genuinely enjoy his entertaining shenanigans and I get the impression that he wouldn't be happy now in any other career. The only question that remains to be answered is whether Alan has any particular affinity toward children.
"I'm just a big kid myself," he smiles, "That's all really."
At this point I thank him for his time and leave him muttering about exploding chairs as he wonders which new, wacky (and probably murderously dangerous) routines he should include in his show. Overall, it would seem that to pursue a career in children's entertainment, while it's not essential to be completely crazy, it most definitely appears to help.